The Brinicle is a natural phenomenon that can be found in the depths of the Antarctic oceans. It is a frozen, deadly stalactite formed by a mass of very cold salt water which comes into contact with warmer water under the surface of ice further down towards the seafloor where temperature decreases rather quickly.
As soon as the Brinicle touches the bottom, ice spreads killing all forms of life instantly such as the native sea urchins, starfish and colonies of slower-moving creatures.
The phenomenon occurs because of great difference between the composition and the state of sea ice, unlike the one that forms in our freezer, explains oceanographer Mark Brandon of the Open University on the BBC website. Aalt water ice is in fact not a solid, dense mass but it is rather similar to a sponge soaked and formed by a dense network of small canals. During the winter, the temperature in Antarctica reach -4°F while the sea is about 30°F.
Heat rises from the sea and hits the freezing air, sparking the formation of ice. Ice however has a very high density of salt and is therefore denser than the water below so at this point, this mass similar to brine, sinks into the sea water and cools down causing the formation of this fragile tubular radius of ice.
The existence of brinicle was discovered in 1960, however only in 2011 did BBC film crews manage to film them for the very first time. The exact moment the brinicles were forming was captured near the small island of Razorback, near the archipelago of Ross, using cameras in time-lapse at a temperature below freezing.
This is a spectacular, and terrifying phenomenon – a deadly pillar of ice advancing relentlessly about 30cm an hour which only proves the countless and amazing powers of nature.
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